What to expect from Idaho’s presidential search

A consulting firm is in the beginning stages of searching for a new president for the University of Idaho, with a goal of having the executive on campus by July 1.

Last week, the lead consultant from Storbeck Pimentel and associates met via teleconference with officials from the State Board of Education, State Board Executive Director Matt Freeman said. They discussed timelines, milestones and the importance of working with a local search committee throughout the process.

The search is important because the presidential hire will be one of the most important decisions the State Board makes. The new executive will become one of the state’s highest-paid employees and be expected to lead the university for years to come. Additionally, the new president will be expected to restore order after the firing of former Vandals’ Athletic Director Rob Spear, who was ousted by the State Board in the wake of a sexual assault scandal on campus.

At the same time, the state is gearing up to launch a second presidential search at Boise State University.

Freeman described the Idaho search as critical and crucial. He knows there will be broad interest and plenty of scrutiny applied to the search by both taxpayers and the Vandal community. University of Idaho is the state’s second largest university, maintains satellite campuses in Idaho Falls, Boise and Coeur d’Alene, a research and extension center in Twin Falls and outlying or extension offices in 42 of Idaho’s 44 counties.

Matt Freeman

“I would hope that the university community and the friends of the university would put their best foot forward and set aside any disagreements they may have and focus on the future of the university,” he said. “This is a crucial moment for the university.”

Last week, State Board President Linda Clark appointed a screening committee that will be headed up by State Board member Emma Atchley. That committee’s job is to vet candidates produced by Storbeck Pimentel’s search.

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Once finalists or semifinalists are identified, they will be expected to travel to campus for interviews, open houses or similar events with university officials, students and the public.

“We’re ramping up and going to let the public know where and when they can come out for input,” State Board spokesman Mike Keckler said. “We will do our best to keep folks informed throughout the process, which will take up pretty much the entire fall and into the winter.”

In the end, only the State Board of Education has the power to hire a new president, and such a move must occur during a public meeting via a vote of the State Board.

How we got here

After the State Board and outgoing President Chuck Staben announced the 2018-19 school year would be his last as president, University of Idaho’s contracts and purchasing services department developed a Request for Proposals for the search. Eight different executive search firms responded, including:

  • Russell Reynolds and Associates.
  • Korn Ferry.
  • Witt Kieffer.
  • Wheless Partners.
  • Parker Executive Search.
  • Greenwood/Asher and Associates.
  • William Funk and Associates.
  • And Storbeck Pimentel, the winning bidder.

Then, State Board of Education President Linda Clark assembled a six-person committee of evaluators to score the proposals for the president’s search. They used a rubric that scored the proposals on four criteria:

  • Search firm qualifications and resumes (30 percent).
  • Experience with land grant institutions (30 percent).
  • References (20 percent).
  • Overall cost (20 percent).

The evaluators selected Storbeck Pimentel’s proposal. Storbeck Pimentel then signed a contract directly with University of Idaho dated Aug. 23.

The University of Idaho is paying for the president’s search, and the contract is valued at $78,400 plus expenses and fees. The State Board is not a party to the contract and never voted on or ratified the decision to name the search firm, even though the State Board “announced” the selection in a Sept. 6 news release.

Idaho Education News sent public records requests to both the State Board of Education and University of Idaho, seeking to obtain the proposals. The State Board provided unredacted copies of seven of the eight proposals on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the University of Idaho sent Idaho Education News an email saying it would need 10 full days to respond to EdNews’ Sept. 6 public records request.

What about Boise State?

A second president’s search is also underway at Boise State University. In May, the State Board voted to end the original search for former President Bob Kustra’s successor without hiring any of the finalists. The State Board named an interim president for this school year and voted to develop a new Request for Proposals in May.

Six firms responded to Boise State’s search, Keckler said.

A team of RFP evaluators scored the Boise State proposals and selected a firm for the search. At this time, the two sides are finalizing a contract for Boise State’s next search. Once the contract is finalized and signed, the State Board will announce the firm that will handle the Boise State search. Keckler declined to name the firm, but said an announcement could be coming as early as this week.

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